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Yitro 5779: The Ocean and the Cave

01/30/2019 09:33:05 PM


Two years ago, Daniel and I had the opportunity to visit Channel Islands National Park. The islands are about an hour's boat ride off the coast of Southern California. They draw in visitors with opportunities to be deep in relatively unspoiled wilderness in just a day trip from the concrete jungle of Los Angeles. Around the perimeter of the islands are many sea caves, rock formations carved out by the rhythms of the waves. One popular...Read more...

Va-y'hi 2018: Figure and Background

12/26/2018 06:59:56 PM


What do you see in this image? A vase, or two faces looking at each other? This famous optical illusion was developed by the Danish-Jewish psychologist Edgar Rubin, as part of his work on what he called the figure-ground distinction. Normally, when we look at something, our brains automatically differentiate what is the main figure and what is in the background. So, for example, when we read printed words on a page, our brains focus on the words...Read more...

Va-yishlah 5779: Thanksgiving

11/21/2018 02:53:05 PM


In this week's Torah reading, Va-yishlah, we learn of Jacob's confrontation with his brother Esau after 20 years away. In preparation for this confrontation, Jacob prays, acknowledging that "I am unworthy of all the kindness that You have so steadfastly shown Your servant: with my staff alone I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps" (Genesis 32:11). In this pivotal and uncertain moment, Jacob reflects back on where he was...Read more...

Va-yetzei 5779: Stairway to Heaven

11/14/2018 10:42:23 PM


When we meet our ancestor Jacob at the beginning of this week's Torah portion, Va-yetzei, he is a man on the run. Having finagled the status of firstborn from his brother and father, Jacob flees for his life and is en route to Haran, his mother's birthplace. One night on this journey, Jacob has his famous dream of the angelic beings going up and down a stairway to heaven. God promises Jacob that he will inherit the covenant of his father and...Read more...

KTI Connections: Tol'dot 5779

11/07/2018 04:13:51 PM


Our Torah reading this week, Tol'dot, focuses on the life of Isaac: the birth of his children, his adventures in the land of Israel, and the struggle between his sons for his blessings. What is striking about Isaac's life is how similar it was to his father Abraham's: both men travel south during a famine, both pass off their wives as their sisters, both have conflicts with their neighbors. Both have two main children, with a protracted...Read more...

Hayyei Sarah 5779: Message to Young People

11/06/2018 08:06:27 PM


I typically do not give a sermon at a Bar Mitzvah, but given the events of the previous week, I want to share a few brief words. In particular I want to address the young people who are with us today. In our Torah reading this week, we read about the death of Abraham. “Abraham breathed his last, dying at a good ripe age, old and contented; and he was gathered to his kin” (Gen. 25:8). But then, we read a curious but extremely important...Read more...

Kavvanah for Tree of Life

11/06/2018 08:04:36 PM


As we stand here before the open ark, we are about to sing Etz Hayim Hi, it is a tree of life, and we call to mind our brothers and sisters who were murdered in their synagogue, called Tree of Life, a week ago. עֵץ -ַיִּים "ִיא לַמַּ-ֲ-ִיקִים 'ָּ"ּ. וְתמְכֶי"ָ מְאֻשָּׁר “It is a tree of life for those who grasp it, and all who hold onto it are blessed.” Our Torah is a tree of life....Read more...

Hayyei Sarah 5779: Great American Alloy

11/06/2018 08:02:57 PM


US Steel was an iconic American company that flourished in Pittsburgh in its heyday as an industrial center. Its logo, which also became the logo of the Pittsburgh Steelers football team, features three diamonds: yellow for coal, orange for iron ore and blue for steel scrap"the three ingredients of steel. The diamonds represented the great power of an alloy, a combination of different things that was stronger together than any of them were on...Read more...

KTI Interfaith Vigil for Pittsburgh Remarks

11/06/2018 07:49:23 PM


Good evening. My name is Rabbi Ben Goldberg, and it is my pleasure to serve as spiritual leader here at Congregation KTI. We are gathered here this evening not because we want to, but because we must. Our hearts are broken as the peace of Shabbat was desecrated last Saturday, as our fellow Jews in Pittsburgh were victims of an antisemitic act of terror. Gathered in prayer and celebration just as we do in this building every week, they were...Read more...

Va-yera 5779: Child Sacrifice

10/24/2018 04:06:00 PM


This week's Torah reading, Va-yera, contains the Torah readings for Rosh Hashannah, including the famous story of the binding of Isaac. The story has generated an enormous amount of commentary and discussion. The story raises core questions of what the purpose of this “test” was, and how it can be that a moral God would command someone to murder his own child.

Following a certain strain of commentary on the story, I understand it as...Read more...

Mon, March 20 2023 27 Adar 5783